Turkey: Antep Baklava Now Both Protected and Threatened
Turkey's European Union membership bid may be permanently stalled, but things have worked out better for the country's effort to get baklava from the southeastern city of Gaziantep registered with the EU's "protected status." Reports Yahoo about the announcement from Brussels that the flaky pastry is now a item worthy of its protection:
The Gaziantep baklava, described as a "pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with semolina cream and Antep pistachio", became the first Turkish product to receive the coveted status.
The sweet and nutty treat is one of 16 non-EU products to win the logo, including Darjeeling tea and 10 Chinese foodstuffs.
At the same time, the European Commission also recognised foods from Greece -- Turkey's arch rival and recipient of billions in EU bailout funds -- and eurosceptic Britain.
Greece's Santorini tomato, a cherry tomato that draws its fruity sweetness from lengthy exposure to the sun and a volcanic soil, won protected status, joining such Greek delights as feta cheese.
And Britain won protected status for its Yorkshire Wensleydale, a creamy-white cheese made in the northern county since the 11th century.
The Wensleydale joins the Cornish pastry, Scottish wild salmon and the Birmingham Balti.
But while the EU is moving to protect Gaziantep's baklava (which, for the record, truly is among the finest to be had), one of Turkey's most famous makers of the sweet is raising the alarm about what he says is a dangerous threat to the quality of the dessert. According to Nadir Güllü, owner of the large Güllüoglu chain of baklava shops, inferior black market pistachios -- one of the dessert's main ingredients -- coming from Syria and Iran are flooding the market, which he says is making it harder to produce baklava as it should be. From the International Business Times:
For the Güllüs it has become increasingly difficult to find pure Gaziantep pistachios because lower-quality nuts have managed to slip in through new smuggling routes, the same lanes where refugees, drugs, weapons and oil have been passing because of the Syrian conflict.
The Güllüs suspect that suppliers are now cutting pistachio grinds and selling them to baklava makers throughout Turkey -- mixing the high-quality Gaziantep ones with the lesser ones from Syria.